Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Review: Historic Photos of University of Michigan Football

(review by Craig Barker)

Michelle O'Brien's new book Historic Photos of University of Michigan Football is a thoroughly wonderful look back at the first century of football in Ann Arbor, from the cap clad gentlemen who became the first intercollegiate team formed west of Pennsylvania to Anthony Carter's Homecoming game catch against Indiana in 1979, the photos collect many of the iconic images of the winningest team in the history of Division I football.

Building on Turner Publishing's Historic Photos series, particularly the Historic Photos of the University of Michigan, published last year, Ms. O'Brien makes deft and quality use of the resources of the Bentley Historical Library to show the obvious (the first Rose Bowl team, center Gerald Ford from the 1934 team, the various National Championship teams, Bo, the aforementioned Carter grab), the iconic (including a personal favorite picture of mine, Fielding Yost walking in front of Yost Field House), and the surprisingly deep (Louis Elbel conducting the MMB in the Victors in 1952, 54 years after he write the song or Michigan's "legendary" Block M card section from Ferry Field as featured on the cover).

Enhancing the photos, lovingly rendered on glossy pages in vivid black and white are some wonderful captions which provide context, trivia, and detail. As you progress through the book, you feel the story of Michigan football being told to you, piece by piece. Also enjoyable is the number of photos of the Michigan Marching Band, from its humble origins to "The Chief" William Revelli.

There are a number of small things in the book which caught my attention, like the fact that Michigan's current "Go Blue" banner is much newer than I though, as the 1974 version clearly is in a different font, that in 1965, Michigan's road jersey had a block M on the sleeve, and the strangest one, to me at least, empty end zone seats in the 1950s. As you read through this book again and again, you will notice more and more details, making something great even better.

The only fault I can find with this book is that it stopped in 1979, which, while a logical look at the first century of Michigan football, it would have been nice, in my mind, to go through 1989 and round the Bo era out. Perhaps that can come in a sequel?

All in all a wonderful effort, Ms. O'Brien has done herself and Michigan football's heritage proud.

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